(Updated) Do the religious have a right not to be offended?

1 07 2008

The Australian and international blogosphere is abuzz with news of New South Wales’ antidemocratic laws protecting Catholicism from criticism during the World Youth Day festivities:

EXTRAORDINARY new powers will allow police to arrest and fine people for “causing annoyance” to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites, beginning today.

The laws, which operate until the end of July, have the potential to make a crime of wearing a T-shirt with a message on it, undertaking a Chaser-style stunt, handing out condoms at protests, riding a skateboard or even playing music, critics say.

Police and volunteers from the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service will be able to direct people to cease engaging in conduct that “causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event”.

People who fail to comply will be subject to a $5500 fine.

The Church itself has denied requesting the regulations. You can read more at Pharyngula, The Thinker’s Podium and An Onymous Lefty.

An organisation by the name of the No To Pope Coalition is prepared to take the $5500 challenge. Which brings to mind recent police crackdowns on anti-Scientology protests in London and Glasgow, as well as the arrest last week of a Gold Coast teenager for wearing a T-shirt deemed “blasphemous.” Having our delicate religious sensibilities offended, it appears, is something we want the police and the government to protect us against.

But what do you think? Do the religious have a right not to be offended?

UPDATE: T-shirt vendors have already begun to capitalise on the niche trend carved out by these inane laws: Annoying Catholics.

(Images: Ninemsn)

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6 responses

2 07 2008
redhotrabbit

it appears that according to today’s standards, everybody except white christians has a right to refuse to be offended.

2 07 2008
AV

There are no white Catholics?

2 07 2008
Bruce

If redhotrabbit is patient enough, nanotechnology will eventually create a violin small enough to play a suitably trite chord of sympathy.

2 07 2008
Bruce

In any case AV, there is one aspect about this piece of legislation I think nobody should welcome. Catholics aren’t an undifferentiated group and even Pell himself is contentious amongst Catholics. What happens, if in discussion on a matter of Catholic belief, two Catholics annoy each other?

That would but the state in the position of having to either repress the discussion, or pick a side in the discussion, something a (supposedly) secular state shouldn’t do. This legislation has the potential for the state to meddle in matters of religion.

In this instance, given it’s potential to discriminate against those under his care on grounds the state should be neutral upon, George Pell has grounds to put his foot up the collective arse of the NSW Government.

Clearly though, these measures are targeted at protesters, but all the same, given that the RCC has denied that it asked for these measures, it will interesting to see how this pans out.

3 07 2008
martin

Tony Blair has become Catholic, and George W. Bush intends the same – at last a hefty indulgence payed to the Vatican allows a clean conscience, and being saved from future war crime tribunals, perhaps in a deluxe Katakombe under the city of Rome !?
Anyway I like Catholics.
m.

4 07 2008
How the NSW government has made World Youth Day into a problem « Floating Life

[…] upcoming Papal visit and the NSW special laws so quietly foisted on us recently. Arthur covers that here from his point of view: The Australian and international blogosphere is abuzz with news of New […]

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